ANALYSIS: 500,000 Nepalese in limbo as new citizenship law stalled

Sketch- OnlineKhabar (for representation only)

MELBOURNE, 29 September 2022: Crucial changes to Nepal’s citizenship laws have been stalled as the country’s President Bidiya Bhandari did not sign the Bill seeking it, leading to a constitutional crisis as was bound to sign it.

Earlier, the two houses of Parliament had passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill (which amends the Nepal Citizenship Act, 2063 BS (2006)) into law. The issue is before the Supreme Court now.

“Although the bill perpetuates several discriminatory provisions of previous laws, it provides an important step forward for some who have been denied citizenship. A group of people whose parents were earlier given citizenship “by birth” but who have not received citizenship themselves would be eligible for citizenship “by descent”: a measure that was promised in Nepal’s 2015 Constitution but has not yet been implemented, ” says the Human Rights Watch.

In a statement, the Forum for Women, Law and Development (FWLD) and Equality Now say, ” The bill would have granted Nepali mothers the right to confer citizenship to their children who are living in Nepal, once a self-declaration could be made by her of the father being ‘unidentified’ or absent. Another amendment would have accorded ‘citizenship by descent to those born to parents with citizenship by birth. It also would have given Non-Resident Nepalis (NRNs) access to a type of citizenship that assured economic, social, and cultural rights, but no voting and other political rights.

We strongly believe that the law should address equality in all terms and conditions when it pertains to the passing of citizenship, irrespective of the gender of the persons involved. This larger aim could have been partly achieved if the amended bill had become law, as a first step. While it would have addressed some urgent gender-discriminatory citizenship provisions and practices in Nepal, the passing of the bill would also have opened up the space for more pointed advocacy for further amendments that address remaining discrimination.”

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A Kathmandu-based political analyst told Anadolu Agency that the president, who rose to the country’s highest office with support from CPN-UML opposition parties has sought a thorough review of the bill.

“Citizenship issue is always controversial in Nepal as it has political consequences,” said the analyst, wishing to remain anonymous.

If the bill is approved and becomes law, it will allow tens of hundreds of Madheshi community members – a term to define those people in Nepal with Indian ancestry who mainly reside in the plains of the Himalayan nation — citizenship and voting rights.

“This means expansion of voter base support of specific political parties seen leaning towards New Delhi,” he explained.

Nepal is going to the polls in the third week of November for the 275 seats of the lower house.

By SAT News Desk

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